Sega Mega Drive Mega CD Review – Did It ever Take Off?

It’s spring 1993 a blinding flash appears above the London sky followed by what looks like trails of fire that light up the night sky, what is it people ask, an alien arrival, a comet or an early firework no Its the Star Struck team arriving to do another vintage console story. So while we hide from local law enforcement at the same time trying to remember where we parked we shall commence the review of the Sega Mega Drive Mega CD.

Sega vs Sega!?

It is with kind of a heavy heart I begin this review as I truly believe this was the beginning of the end for Sega in the console market. The Sega Mega Drive Mega CD in a perfect world should have done what the Mega Drive did for the Master system and propelled gaming forward, instead what was released was an ill conceived poorly built machine that had caused serious problems between Sega of America and Sega Japan.Sega Japan decided the Mega Drive required an add on and linked up with JVC to make this a reality but refused to allow Sega of America access to it due to worries they would want changes or it would be leaked, to the point SOA had to build a dummy unit to see exactly what they were dealing with.

Discs were the way forward

The obvious benefit with CDs was that 320 times more information could be placed on it than a cartridge resulting in FMV ( full motion video) starting to be used in gaming more and more and as we will get to it was not done brilliantly in a lot of cases. The original Sega Mega Drive Mega CD would sit underneath the Mega Drive and would slide in to a connecting slot on the side it was then it occurred to you that it needed it’s own power supply which in my opinion makes it a separate console and the Mega Drive was just being used to supply a picture.

Wow a free game!

A game came with the Sega Mega Drive Mega CD in the shape of Cobra Command, an action packed helicopter blasting game which involved you flying a state of the art chopper around Various levels from New York city to Jungles, with explosions on a massive scale, when you first sat down to play this you were immediately sucked in with how awesome it looked. Unfortunately that was until after a few hours and you realised what was going on the chopper and vehicles you blew up using the cross hair seemed to explode exactly the same time everytime and the arrows you believed were guiding you were actually trigger points and all you were doing was timed button presses to keep a cartoon rolling and if you didn’t cut scenes stepped in giving you the impression something had taken you out.

Ok it was free game you think I can overlook this and it still looks awesome, unfortunately this was never the case a whole host of cartoon trigger based games Started appearing on the shelves Road Avenger, Time Gal and even Dragons Lair leading to poor reviews all round.

A game called Sewer Shark appeared on the scene which made people sit up and take note an FMV game with fairly decent acting involving you piloting an advanced ship through the sewers taking out all manner of monsters as you whipped between different pipes and tunnels obviously prompted by an led light system around your head up display, that would light in certain corner telling you what way to turn. What we had now was a very vague interactive film that overlapped graphics for you to shoot with the cross hair on screen again it worked to an extent until you realised there was no real gameplay again.

These games are (not) great

More poor standard games kept getting churned out Sherlock Holmes, a point and click adventure which had zero replay value once completed and took no advantage of the hardware. Mad Dog Mcree was released and was immediately shot down by critics for the utterly terrible FMV and lack of colour to the point you could barely see what you should have been shooting (trust me I played this it was like shooting blocks of Lego). The only Game to take advantage of the new hardware was Silpheed a space age side scrolling shooter that churned out polygons galore during intense space battles but again sales were poor.

Problem after problem…

To add to the issues a game called Night Trap was released which called in the age of gamers and who should be playing it. The game was all FMV which involved you watching a suspicious family in a house via cameras while a group of girls partied and triggered traps to catch what can only be described as men in jumpsuits with stocking over their heads (how all these cameras and traps were placed in the house without anyone knowing is anyone’s guess) the game met mixed reviews with complaints about the poor FMV and boredom of just clicking between cameras waiting for something to happen and not being able to watch scenes due to missing the jump suit guys on other cameras or key scenes relevant to the game.

One of the best blue hedgehog games ever

There were a few games that did make good use of the system one being sonic the Hedgehog CD which is still hailed by some as the best Sonic ever made, Final fight a arcade perfect version of the arcade beat em up. Updated versions of Megadrive games started to appear for the Sega mega drive mega cd with added levels and FMV to try and bulk out the poor library of new titles, Batman returns was a disaster of a game on all consoles but when the Mega CD version appeared a brilliant driving section had been added which was fast, slick and explosive.

In the final push Ground Zero Texas was released and was received well, the developer had managed to establish almost full screen FMV, a good story, decent acting and Aliens. Imagine Mad Dog Mcree style shooting with cowboys at first but leading to you finding a hostile alien race that on being shot would explode to pieces in glorious cut scenes.

By the end of 1994, the add-on had sold approximately 2.7 million units worldwide, compared to 29 million units for the Mega Drive sold by that time. In 1996 Sega admitted defeat and discontinued the CD system after only 3 years to concentrate on future expansions and consoles.

Not the best ending for the Sega Mega Drive Mega CD

Something had changed at Sega console development and it wasn’t good as would be seen over the next few years. A storm was coming and Sega was going to take the full force of it, they just didn’t know it but we will go in to this in later reviews, right now we are about to jump off a very high building and hope this little gadget kicks in to take us to 2018 before we hit the floor.

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